A/N: Here it is, the penultimate chapter. Just one more to go after this. I hope you all enjoy.

A cannonball tore into the side of the fort, raining debris down onto the combatants and causing Norrington to shield his face.

"Lord Almighty, what is that?" one of the marines exclaimed.

"More pirates!"

The Harkaway had arrived. A chill settled over Norrington's bones and he gripped his sword tighter as he ran to the battlements and looked down. Below, the sea churned and figures began walking out of it. Seaweed and algae sloughed from their skeletal frames as they held aloft steel weapons made no less deadly by their layers of rust and grime.

Norrington gasped as something squeezed his heart and lungs like a vice, making it hard to breathe. He dropped to his knees and clawed at his sleeve, revealing tattered skin stretched over the edges of bone all the way up his wrist and across the back and side of his hand. Red washed across his vision.

"Find Jack Sparrow," a voice echoed in his mind and he knew it was the voice of Jolly Roger.

He had to find him. Jack couldn't live after what he'd done. He needed to suffer. He as hiding. The coward.


Cut down every man who stood in his way, every person who tried to help Jack escape. He was done running, the chase was over.

Heat seared Norrington, racing across his skin as the necrosis spread further up his arm, replacing humanity with rage.

"Find Jack Sparrow. Bring him to me."

An arpeggio of musket shots cracked the air and Norrington gasped as the hold on him lessened.

Several skeletons fell flat backward to splash in the shallows while the rest didn't look back, didn't hesitate, just came forward in one relentless wave.

Panting, Norrington felt on the ground for his sword and then pushed himself to his feet. He had to hold on just a little longer, long enough to find that Sword.

"Reload!" someone shouted and the firing line that had quickly formed on the battlements now pulled out their pouches of black powder and shot to reload in unison as they'd been trained. But it wouldn't be enough.

Out of the surf, the downed skeletons sat up, water pouring from their eye sockets and mandibles and then they stood and pressed on toward the shore as if nothing had happened.

"It'll take more than that," Norrington said through clenched teeth. "Aim for the skulls."

Several marines did a double take as if they'd forgotten all about him and now weren't sure whether his re-arrest was a priority or not. He didn't give them time to decide this as he was already running across the courtyard and through the gate to the hill that lead down to the beach.

Just as he did, the first line made it to the shore and, raising their weapons high, charged.

Gunshots shook the air but it did no good and the skeletons crashed into the marines that had poured onto the beach to meet them.

It seemed there was enough humanity left in Norrington to mark him a target. One of the skeletons rushed straight for him and he caught its arcing blade with his own and then swiped at its ribs. Already the red was starting to come down on him again and he fought it just as he fought the skeleton, slicing its head clean off.

Without missing a beat, he attacked a second skeleton, thrusting his sword through its face with a sickening crunch.

Something bumped into him from behind and he yanked back his sword, taking the skull clean off with it, whirling to face another enemy.

His sword clashed against the barrel of a musket, the tip of the bayonet close to his neck.

"You!" the marine sputtered but before Norrington could react to this, the marine staggered and gasped, a sword protruding from his chest.

Norrington took a step back. The marine collapsed, revealing a grinning skeleton. The voice in his head bubbled back to the surface but Norrington refused to give in to it, lashing out at the undead pirate.

Thunder growled, accompanied by the whistle of a flying cannonball which connected with the stone of the fort at the same time as lightning flashed. Debris flew everywhere. The ground surged beneath Norrington as that presence inside him gripped him again.

Water rose and fell and frothed against the deck of the ship.

"This is madness! We have to turn back!"

"Sparrow knows we're closing in. We won't get another chance like this."

Norrington plunged his sword all the way through the skeleton and then wrenched it to the side, breaking ribs. The skeleton in turn sliced at his chest and he staggered.

"Abandon ship!"

The world tilted in the wind and a great crack resounded as the mainmast split almost all down its length.

No. He was getting away!

"Commodore, into the longboat! Please!"

Something smashed into the back of his head and Norrington fell. All around him, men fought and died. He could no longer feel his left arm. His head pounded with the force of a blacksmith's hammer and his breathing was shallow and rattling.

Another roll of thunder followed by a flash of lightning and he was back there. In the hurricane.

Green clouds converged, reflecting briny light upon the raging sea and through the stinging rain, he glimpsed another ship deep in the storm. One with tattered sails. It drifted through the water, unaffected by the wind and waves.

It was the last thing he saw before the Dauntless rolled beneath the sea and tried to take him down with her.

Bony hands grabbed at him, clutching his arms and back and forcing him up. He writhed against them, reaching for the sword he'd dropped yet again.

"This one's still fighting," one of the skeletons rasped.

Another barked out a laugh. "Not for long."

Norrington ceased his thrashing as he caught sight of the torn fabric of his left sleeve and his hand and arm that were now completely skeletal. Already, he could feel the curse moving rapidly up the rest of his arm and toward his shoulder, moving much quicker than before. He was running out of time.

Norrington kicked and struggled. Through the melee, he caught sight of Jack.

With a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other, Jack Sparrow was doing what he did best. He was running away.

The fight drained out of Norrington even though he should have expected nothing less. Of course Jack would opt for saving his own skin. It was in his nature.

And meanwhile, the skeletons were dragging Norrington away from the fight and toward the darkened shore.

The marines didn't bother with Jack anymore which was just fine by him. Let them deal with the creepy undead pirates, he'd had enough of those to last a lifetime. So as the marines slowed the skeletons' progress toward their goal, Jack ran for the East India Company offices.

With all the ruckus, no one would be guarding it. He was proved right when he reached the building, shooting the lock on the door which swung wide to admit him.

His heart was beating fast as he searched for the chest. It was only a matter of time before Jolly's forces overpowered the marines of the fort and then nothing would stand in the way between Jolly Roger and his prey.

There it was! The chest! Jack dove to the floor and grabbed for the clasp but of course it was locked. Key, he needed to find the key. He frantically riffled through the papers on the desk, scattering them, and upended all the drawers. On the second to last one, something glimmered and hit the floor with a light chink. He felt for it in the gloom, snatched it up, and shoved it into the lock.

The chest opened with a faint click and he breathed a sigh of relief to see the Sword of El Patron sitting inside, its gold sheen brighter than it should have been in the gloom.

A very familiar ch-chik behind him made him freeze.

"You're going to leave that where you found it and step away," Beckett said with forced calm.

Jack turned around, careful to keep both hands in sight. Of course he wasn't lucky enough for Beckett to have been cut down in the fighting. Even so, his coat was stained from dirt and stray hairs stuck out of his usually immaculate wig. He held a pistol aimed at Jack's face.

"It's not a hanging, but it will have to do," he said.

"Or," Jack interjected, holding up a finger. "Or you could let me go."

Beckett's steely gaze never wavered. "And why would I do that?"

"Because you need me. Because Jolly's crew is going to pilfer and set fire to Port Royal and the only thing that can stop them is the Sword of El Patron. Are you going to do the deed, then? Get close enough to ol' Skull Face to stab him in the non-existent heart? Someone's got to do it. Eh?" He cracked a congenial smile.

It seemed Beckett went to great effort not to roll his eyes. "You think that someone ought to be you. Jack. We've been through this dance before. It never works out."

Damn it.

Before Beckett could pull the trigger, the far wall of the office exploded in a shower of splinters and chunks of wood that rained down from the collapsing ceiling.

Jack hit the ground, the debris stinging his exposed skin, and snatched up the Sword of El Patron. He didn't know what Beckett was doing or even if he was still alive but he didn't care. Drawing his own sword, he slid the golden blade into his sheath and ran out of the office and back into the fray.

Norrington barely noticed when the skeletons dropped him in the surf. The water that lapped at him threatened to choke him, was no different from the voice in his head, which was getting louder and angrier.

Sputtering, pushing himself up with weak arms, Norrington saw yet more waves of the undead emerging from the sea and following in their wake, there he was. Jolly Roger. He walked through the shallows, green fire seeming to emanate from his one hand. As Norrington tried to pick himself off the ground, there were screams. All along the shore, marines dropped their weapons and grabbed for their throats before collapsing.

He had drawn no sword or pistol yet he was killing them all.

Then Jolly's gaze settled on Norrington, freezing him in place. He laughed. "Welcome to the crew, Mr. Norrington."

Norrington cursed himself for his inability to move as Jolly continued past him. He was no threat now and Jolly knew it. But as he got back to his feet, rage pierced him like a knife.

"Jack Sparrow!" Roger bellowed and there was.

Jack hadn't run away. He'd actually come back and sheathed to one hip was the golden Sword.

He'd come back.

"Sparrow," Jolly growled. "Finally decided to stop running? You'll pay for what you've done."

"That was on you, mate," Jack said. "You cheated first."

"Bah!" Jolly spat and Jack lunged before he could use his powers, slashing down on his one good hand.

As he did, Jolly smashed his other arm – that amalgam of weaponry the curse had given him – into Jack's shoulder, causing him to stagger.

"I was always your better," Jolly said. "That seat should have gone to me."

"You need to get yourself a better hobby." Jack swung his sword in an arc. Quicker than he should have been able to, Jolly drew a sword into his good hand and blocked the attack.

Shoving Jack away from him, Jolly attacked with cutlass and weaponized hand, weaving a deadly combination that was near impossible for Jack to defend against with his single sword but he was too occupied to draw the second one.

Finally, Jolly threw Jack onto the ground and stabbed down at him with his cutlass. Jack rolled out of the way just in time, catching the spray of sand across the side of his face.

"You're weaker than he was. And a coward. It took you this long to face me."

Leaping to his feet, Jack found his opportunity and drew the Sword of El Patron, using it and his own sword to form an X and block Jolly's next brutal attack.

"You've missed a lot," Jack said, their faces inches apart. "I killed Davy Jones."

The revelation was enough of a distraction that Jack was able to push him away.

"Filthy liar," Jolly said. "You're not immortal."

Jack shrugged. "I helped. Anyroad, I fought him and I'm still alive. He's not."

Charging, Jack cut toward Jolly's throat with his sword, and stabbed low with the cursed blade. Jolly blocked both of them, the Sword of El Patron now caught in the grooves and sharp edges of his hand.

"So you'd thought to end me just the same. Your mistake." He wrenched the blade out of Jack's hand and then struck him in the face.

Pain exploded in him as Jack fell back. He lost track of the Sword.

Cold steel touched his throat.

"Your days of running are over."

A crack split the air and Jolly jerked as bone fragments shattered from above his right eye socket, sending cracks through the symbol on his forehead.

With a snarl of rage, he spun around.

Norrington stood with a musket held at his shoulder, sweat streaking his brow, breathing heavily, and with one hand looking like it had come from a year-dead corpse.

"Aren't you mine yet?" Jolly asked in an annoyed tone.

"I'm afraid your curse doesn't work on me," Norrington said even though it obviously did. "And I…simply won't stop fighting you."

Dropping the musket, Norrington raised his sword in a shaking hand.

Jolly laughed as Norrington wobbled. But he managed to stay on his feet and even take a few steps.

With Jolly distracted, Jack frantically began looking for the Sword of El Patron.

Norrington attacked first but there was hardly any power behind the blow.

"You can't hold it back forever," Jolly said. "It'll take you, mind and body, and there'll be nothing to stop it."

Norrington didn't have the energy to reply, all of it spent in fighting Jolly. His sword slipped and Jolly's blade sliced into his shoulder, bring searing pain with it.

Shouting, Norrington raised his sword again, smacking it against Jolly's fingers. He dropped his blade with a hiss and then grabbed Norrington's left wrist. Immediately, pain like fire shot up his arm.

"You are nothing."

The pain climbed over his shoulder, down his chest, and up his neck as the curse spread. Living flesh gave way to sun-dried leather and tendon and bone. His vision went red and his heart pounded, getting slower and slower as the curse neared it. His thoughts were slowing too as the necrosis touched his jaw and began to work its way up his face.

With all the strength he could muster, Norrington broke away. Each breath rattled out of him and felt hollow, unmade. He fell to the ground.

"Fine!" Jolly shouted. "I'll take pleasure in ripping you apart and scattering your bones and then you will wish you could die." He snatched up his sword and lunged even as Norrington scrambled to his feet, weaponless.

"James!" As time seemed to slow, it took a second for him to register that it was Jack who had called to him. And now there it was, the Sword of El Patron, gleaming gold against the sky as it sailed pommel first toward him.

Norrington twisted and caught the Sword. Its weight almost tore it from his hand.

He almost collapsed, turning back; he couldn't feel the left side of his body, he couldn't hear his own heart.

He plunged the Sword of El Patron up to the hilt in Jolly Roger's chest.

At the same time, pain punched Norrington in the ribs and he let go of the Sword. He took two steps backward. He noticed the sword sticking out of his own chest.

Jolly Roger coughed. "Damn you."

Dust cascaded from his hat and tattered clothes and the remnants of what had once been flesh and then Jolly Roger simply fell apart, his bones clattering in a pile in the sand.

It was over.

Norrington's head swam and his chest felt tight. In a daze, he looked down at his left hand which was whole again.

He'd broken the curse.

It was difficult to stand and even more so to breathe even as skeletons fell in heaps all around him and the raging presence in his mind was gone.

He turned his head and saw Jack staring at him. And then the world tilted and faded into nothing.